July 9th, 2009
04:07 PM ET
Jarrett Bellini reports from the 13th annual All Good Festival in Masontown, West Virginia
It all started in 2007 when my buddies and I decided to skip the usual bachelor party clichés – Vegas, strip club, Disney on Ice – and, instead, head up to the mountains of West Virginia for three days of music and camping. Now, it’s become a tradition… so long as we agree to loose standards when it comes to quantifying “tradition.”
In my eyes, there are three things that separate All Good from the other big summer gatherings – three important attributes that make it worth coming back year after year to see some of the very best of improvisational rock and roots.
For starters, All Good provides no overlapping sets. With only two main stages, nestled next to each other at the bottom of the same hill, one needs only to turn his or her head from the big stage to the small stage, and vice-versa, upon the completion of each set. The next act will already be geared up and ready to go, making the experience completely stress free. You never have to choose between bands, and there’s no wasted time walking from one stage to another. Though, it is recommended that you actually get up and move around from time to time. Festival hillside bed sores are totally not rock n’ roll.
The second thing that makes All Good all good is the setting. Believe it or not, the mountains of West Virginia offer far more than just fodder for cheap Appalachian humor. Quite simply, Marvin’s Mountaintop is beautiful. And while those other festivals manage to cram a large town’s worth of people into an open field, baking everyone under a hot sun, All Good folks camp out within scenic trees and valleys, enjoying mild summer weather that even manages to get chilly at night. And the sunsets… they’re truly unbeatable.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, All Good Festival likely offers the most bang for your buck. In fact, tickets for this weekend-long event start at $109. The other big festivals start at about $250. I’ve never been good with numbers, but that’s like a $400 difference. (Was I close?) Now, I’ll grant you that the likes of Bonnaroo and Rothbury offer considerably more bands and some truly world class big acts. However, as I already mentioned, with all those overlapping sets, fans are forced to make tough decisions. Personally speaking, making tough decisions has never been my forte. I believe I still have an unfinished text vote from the second season of American Idol. It's a rather unfortunate personality trait, and I'm fairly certain that having to make said tough decisions in the intense summer heat would likely lead to an afternoon spent crying inside my tent, curled up in the fetal position. Again, totally not rock n' roll.
So, really, when it comes right down to it, for far less money, you end up enjoying the same amount of entertainment at All Good, but without having to miss a moment of music. Plus you get mountains. Mmmmmm... mountains.
And with that, the music starts later this evening. Thursday is early-bird arrival day, and Keller Williams looks to be the big act of the night. More to come from the mountaintop where, already, things are feeling all good.
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